Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hakuouki-- Came for the Bishies, Stayed for the AMAZING story

So a while back when Persona 2 Innocent Sin was released on PSP when i went to order it one of the suggested games under it was Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom CE. I had never heard of it, knew nothing about it but the cover looked pretty cool and I'm a sucker for a CE. On a whim I ordered it.
When it came in I cracked that puppy open and the art book was full of pretty bishies, yay me! But, the thought of a Visual Novel type game didn't really interest me much. After a couple of weeks on my shelf though, curiosity got the best of me.

The game falls into a genre called Otome, basically games for females. The set up is a reverse harem situation, if you're not familiar with anime/manga a harem situation is where a guy is surrounded by numerous women, usually but not always to comedic effect. In this case its the opposite, one girl, numerous guys. BUT...get your minds outta the gutter!!

The premise of the game is simple enough, you are Yukimura Chizuru, a girl who dresses up like a boy to come to Kyoto and search for her missing father. Your "harem" are the heroic and handsome men of the Shinsengumi, the last Samurai corps in Japan before the Meiji Restoration began.
Chizuru ends up stumbling across the Shinsengumi during their patrols and is taken back to their headquarters where she becomes first a prisoner, then a member and eventually a love interest for one of the men. That's where you, the player come in.
You have 5 possible romantic choices within the Shinsengumi and 1 other...gentleman...that comes along later and there's pretty much something for everyone. The strong silent type, the guy next door, the douchebag, whatever floats your boat.

Harada Sanosuke, Todo Heisuke, Kazama Chikage, Okita Souji, Saito Hajime, Hijikata Toshizo
The game is divided into chapters. The first 3 are dedicated to establishing the story and from chapter 4 onward you focus mainly on the guy you've chosen. If you've shown no preference for any of the 5 Shinsengumi characters by Ch4 the game defaults to Kazama Chikage, the only person outside the Shinsengumi you can pursue a romance with and I use the word romance loosely...

I would like to point out that while the object of the game is to win the heart of one of these men the game REALLY isn't all that focused on romance or love. I know that doesn't seem to make sense, bear with me, I'm trying to write this without being totally spoilerific. and yes, I'll just warn you right now, there will probably be some spoilers but that doesn't matter much really does it? I'm sure that many readers have no intention of ever playing through this game because its "girly". That's really a shame because to be honest I came for the pretty boys but I stayed for the amazing story. No, not the romance. The story of the Shinsengumi.

You see, turns out the Shinsengumi were real. They probably weren't that damn pretty (ok, except for Hijikata...he really WAS pretty) and they certainly weren't that warm and fuzzy but they were real, and the story in the game and the battles that they fight, those happened for the most part. Sure the game adds a girl and some demons (I'll get to that) but the basics are true. 

So I mentioned Demons...
(the demon called spoilers will probably appear from this moment onward)
Amagiri Kyuju, Kazama Chikage, Shiranui Kyo

Not very long into the game the Shinsengumi raid the Ikeda Inn (this was a very famous battle and the one that really catapulted them to fame in Kyoto) and have a run in with 3 strange men. One of them I've already mentioned, he's the 6th love interest, Kazama. Turns out they aren't just ordinary men but demons. For the duration of the game they'll pop up trying to kidnap Chizuru and start some shit with the Shinsengumi. While they fight all the members, each guy has his own specific demon that likes to show up and start shit. For example if you chose Harada as your romance then you'll be seeing a lot of Shiranui Kyo, the demon with the gun and the badass tattoo. (while Harada is not my first choice in the Shinsengumi I have an unnatural obsession with his Oni (demon) rival so I really enjoy his route).
Why are they trying to kidnap Chizuru? Because Kazama wants babies..yeah, there's more to it but you'll have to just play the game to find out.

The demons do have other reasons why they clash with the Shinsengumi, mostly because Kazama is a colossal dick, but, also because of a substance called Ochimizu (water of life). This liquid transforms a man into a Rasetsu (Fury). Kazama finds the Furies offensive and mocks those of the Shinsengumi who become furies.

Basically its like..demon/vampire lite. Just one calorie, not bad ass enough. The Furies are stronger, faster and heal quicker than a normal person. However, they crave blood and slowly go mad. They also have a weakness to silver bullets. (i thought that was werewolves...)
Throughout the story all but 1 of your romantic options in the Shinsengumi become furies for one reason or another. Interesting little aside on that...reading up on the actual history of the group, I realized that the game cleverly has 3 characters turn into furies at the same time their historical counterpart died. I felt that was a nice touch. 

Ok, so now you know all this stuff about the game except one key element...gameplay. 
Well, there really isn't any...
The game is text accompanied by images of the characters and is fully voiced in Japanese (and the voice actors do an AMAZING JOB) and has the occasional CG stills. Gameplay consists of making dialogue choices. For the most part your choices affect your relationship status with the men. Either they determine who's romance level grows or by how much it grows. If the person you chose becomes a fury in the course of the game, not only will you have to keep an eye on your romance level with them but on their corruption level as well. 
The corruption level is a gauge that goes up every chapter they are a fury. Since furies crave blood, when your SO has an..episode.. you'll be given a choice: Give him the blood he needs, give him medicine to suppress his bloodlust or make him suck it up and endure the pain until it passes. each choice has an effect on corruption with giving them blood lowering it most and making them endure raising it highest. If their corruption gets too high, its game over. If you do manage to keep their corruption in check but don't get their romance level high enough by the end of the game then its game over as well. 

That all sounds well and good but you just don't really care about a visual novel type experience you say. First, I'll say that I felt the same way til I actually sat down to play it and then I couldn't put it down.
Second, if you want something less romance-y and more action-y but...not quite as good...still pretty good but not AS could try Warriors of the Shinsengumi.
I actually JUST got around to finishing this one yesterday. When I first bought it I didn't really get into it but I've been on a MASSIVE Hakuoki kick recently and decided I'd give it another go. Glad I did because I could NOT put it down!
Warriors still offers the same basic story as Demon of the Fleeting Blossom but in a Dynasty Warriors crispy crunchy hordes of random dudes getting beat down style. You again choose one of the 6 heroes and spam your way through 6 chapters of faceless peon ass beatings. Along the way you collect materials to craft buffs and such and to unlock extras in the gallery and costumes for free play. It also offers a second story mode which is an original scenario that differs from the main story called Chronicles. Everyone gets a shiny new battle outfit and free flowing hair! 
Its not a particularly difficult game and it can be repetitive but its a fun little hack n slash and for those that have played the previous game or watched the anime (I'm getting to that) they added 2 unlockable characters for skirmish mode, Nagakura Shinpachi and Sanan Keisuke. I personally love Sanan-san so it was great to play as him even if he didn't get his own story arc.

Ok well, you don't like visual novels or Dynasty Warriors but it still sounds kinda cool? Go watch the Anime! It runs through the entire story, the romance is minimal and only with 1 character and there's actual action and blood! But, have a box of tissues on hand...that shit gets SAD. I bawled my eyes out. (man, I'm such a girl)

Look, its like this....I tend to not be a very girly girl when it comes to games. I don't go out of my way to be or not be girly, its just the way I am. I know that games geared at females tend to be..subpar... for the most part. I don't think I've actually ever sought one out on purpose and most are things I'd recommend everyone stay far away from. However, if you look on the right side of the screen there, you'll see that one of my most popular posts is a review of another "girly" game, Style Savvy. I chose to review that game and these because they AREN'T what people expect in a "girl" game. they're well thought out, well implemented and enjoyable. They SHOULDN'T be limited to females. You guys...everyone should give these games a try. Its sad that the fact they are considered "female games" will for the most part limit the amount of people who will play them. So, have an open mind y'all. I wouldn't steer you wrong.

Oh and in case anyone wondered who my favorite Hakuoki hunk to romance was?

Saito Hajime
I like the strong silent type :p

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